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Zimbabwe is a strange place. It had an especially turbulent departure from the era of European colonialism in Africa, as it was ravaged by conflicts and civil unrest. Although there are still some unresolved civil rights issues and totalitarian impulses in the country, the common opinion is that the threats are slowly but steadily dissipating. This means Zimbabwe is re-entering the safari fold, enticing intrepid travelers with its inselberg-studded backcountry, teak trees, and cypress-strewn hills; its rugged Eastern Highlands, where adventurous monkeys huddle against the cool breezes; and its deep caves and underground riverways.
Bulawayo has a New Orleans vibe to it. It has faded colonial frontispieces with art deco and Victorian regal themes. The old streets are lined with swaying trees, and the arcades are home to the rare Anglo-esque public house. This second settlement, though, is more than a historical remnant. It’s also a major manufacturing and commercial centre that was once notorious for its suffocating factories. The town is lush and green, with bougainvillea cascading from the rooftops and palm trees lining the roundabouts. You can visit beautiful government offices, go shopping for trinkets, or schedule your next safari to the south-western parks in between.
Nyanga National Park
The ecosystems here can host a nearly otherworldly variety of species, with groves of msasa trees and cypresses that are unique to these parts. Many are endemic, such as the Old World Samango monkeys, which have white-brushed throats found only in this area. You’ll even come across a few leopards and tigers, just in case you’re looking for a taste of the classic African safari! The Highveld, where the Highveld calls home, is a wild and beautiful place. It’s built by hulking hills of dolomite rock and suspended boulders that creak in the cold breezes, and it’s perched on the very roof of Zimbabwe, more than 1,800 metres above sea level.
Mana Pools National Park
The Zambezi River is the lifeblood of the Mana Pools National Park, which overflows into the plains and grasses here during the rainy season, creating a patchwork of watering holes and pans. The biggest four of these are what gave the place its name (mana means “four” in local vernacular), but there are numerous smaller puddles to see. The key result is that animals congregate at the pools to drink, making Mana Pools a premier game-watching destination. Despite its underdevelopment, there are more crocodiles and hippos here than a baobab tree may hold, and tourists during the monsoon are almost sure to see one!
Victoria Falls is the world’s highest curtain of flowing water, with a height of 108 metres (354 feet) and a width of 1,708 metres (5,604 feet). The falls are on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, so regardless of which side you visit, you’ll have a similar experience. Dinner on the Bushtracks Express, a revived 1920s steam train that travels along part of the ‘Cape to Cairo’ railway on Tuesdays and Fridays, is a great way to spend an evening here. The train travels across Victoria Falls National Park before arriving at the Victoria Falls Bridge, which was designed in 1905 by British colonialist Cecil Rhodes. A game drive through Victoria Falls National Park, which is home to zebra, giraffe, buffalo, eland, and impala will reveal yet more animals. You might also go on a full-day safari in Botswana’s Chobe National Park, which is about an hour and a half away.
It’s on the Zambezi River, about halfway between the river’s source and mouth, and about 800 miles upstream from the Indian Ocean, on the Zambian-Zimbabwean border. Following the construction of the Kariba Dam in 1958, Lake Kariba was drained, flooding the Kariba Gorge on the Zambezi River. The current forest was burnt until Lake Kariba was drained, resulting in a dense layer of fertile soil on the ground that would become the lake bed. As a result, Lake Kariba’s biodiversity is vivid, with fish like the kapenta and tiger fish, crocodiles, elephants, and hippopotamuses, as well as rich birdlife like the fish eagle and cormorant.
The fruit bat, Samango monkeys, tigers, giraffes, zebras, and a number of antelope are among the animals that call the Highlands home. With over 450 species registered in the area, Zimbabwe’s Eastern Highlands is one of the country’s hidden jewels when it comes to bird watching. The Eastern Highlands, which stretch 300 kilometres along Mozambique’s eastern frontier, are made up of three beautiful mountain ranges. Exploring this area will lead you to roll grassland hills, Zimbabwe’s tallest peak, and Africa’s second-longest waterfall.
The path to Mtarazi is long, winding, and poorly marked. There isn’t any signage directing where you can go at certain park junctions, so you have to make assumptions. It is possible to get disoriented. In the rainy season, one can only guess how tough it is to get to the falls. We did the skywalk after hitting the drop. This is a frightening yet thrilling operation. You get to see some spectacular sights.One thing to keep in mind is that the Far and Wide office closes at 4 p.m., so it’s best to start with the skyline and skywalk, then finish with the walk to the falls view spot, where you can watch the falls until late if there’s still daylight. However, since the route to the falls isn’t the easiest, it’s a good idea to leave enough time to return to the tarred road once you’re there.
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